“Noting the People’s Republic of China’s ongoing increase in its nuclear capabilities, Japan and the United States request [China] to contribute to arrangements that reduce nuclear risks, increase transparency, and advance nuclear disarmament,” the US and Japan said.
US, China, Russia, Britain and France pledge to only use nuclear weapons for defence
Russian military forces were moving into Belarus after Moscow-allied strongman Alexander Lukashenko announced Monday that the two countries will conduct military exercises next month.
The move, which came without customary advance notice being provided countries in the region, added to rising tensions with the West over the possible Russian invasion of Ukraine, which borders Belarus.
The US official, speaking on grounds of anonymity, said the size of the Russian force arriving in Belarus was “beyond what we’d expect of a normal exercise.”
“The timing is notable and, of course, raises concerns that Russia could intend to station troops in Belarus under the guise of joint military exercises in order potentially to attack Ukraine,” the official said.
The official said that changes to the Belarus constitution in a referendum next month could allow the Russian military presence to become permanent.
“These draft constitutional changes may indicate Belarus plans to allow both Russian conventional and nuclear forces to be stationed on its territory,” the official said.
That would represent a “challenge to European security that may require a response,” the official said.
Belarus also borders NATO-member Poland.
“Over time, Lukashenko has relied more and more on Russia for all kinds of support. And we know that he doesn’t get that support for free,” the US official said.
“It’s clear Russia is preying on Lukashenko’s vulnerability and calling in a little bit of accumulated IOUs,” the official said.
A top Russian diplomat has warned that Moscow will respond “militarily” and deploy tactical nuclear weapons, if NATO does not guarantee an end to its eastward expansion.
His remarks raise the stakes even higher in the confrontation between Russia and Western powers just days after U.S. President Joe Biden and Russia’s Vladimir Putin held a two-hour video conference aimed at defusing a burgeoning crisis over Russian military movements near Ukraine’s borders, where the Kremlin is estimated to have amassed around 100,000 troops.
Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov’s threat comes amid rising fears that Putin is considering a further military incursion into Ukraine in a rehash of Russia’s 2014 annexation of the Crimean Peninsula and its seizure of a large part of the Donbas region in eastern Ukraine, bordering Russia.
In a phone call Monday, Britain’s Boris Johnson repeated to the Russian leader warnings that any repeat of 2014 would have “significant consequences” and any “destabilizing action” by Russia would be met with a united response by Western countries.
Following the call between Johnson and Putin, Ryabkov told the state-run RIA Novosti news agency Russia’s “response will be military,” if NATO continues to arm Ukraine. “A lack of progress towards a political-diplomatic solution would mean that our response will be military and military-technical,” Ryabkov said.
“There will be confrontation,” he added, saying Russia would deploy weapons previously banned under the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, an arms control deal struck in 1987 by then US President Ronald Reagan and Soviet General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev.
The treaty expired in 2019 but both Washington and Moscow have not moved to deploy the previously banned nuclear weapons.
According to British officials, Johnson stressed to Putin the importance of having a “dialogue on international and regional security” and that all sides needed to observe the Minsk agreements signed by Russia and Ukraine in 2015 which aimed to bring an end to fighting in Ukraine’s Donbas. Russia and Ukraine accuse each other of failing to comply with the Minsk agreements. Russian maneuvers.
Last week, President Biden outlined in his call with Putin the economic sanctions the West would impose if Russian forces invaded Ukraine. A buildup of Russian troops along the border with Ukraine, and on the Crimean Peninsula, has prompted growing alarm in Western capitals and triggered an intense debate among Western policymakers over Putin’s intentions. Russian motorized infantry, artillery and armored units along the border Tuesday appeared to be carrying out drills practicing combat alerts and deploying to assembly points, according to Ukrainian officials.
Kremlin officials maintain Russia is not preparing to invade Ukraine and accuse the Ukrainians of mobilizing military units along their shared border. They say NATO is helping Kyiv to build up its forces and is being supplied with a significant number of weapons, including modern high-tech weapons.
In Kyiv on Tuesday, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian affairs Karen Donfried reassured Ukrainian officials of Washington’s continued commitment to Ukraine’s independence and territorial integrity. Donfried is due to meet Ryabkov in Moscow later this week.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, who is pressing NATO to admit his country as a member, told reporters Tuesday, “Ukraine gave up its nuclear arsenal in exchange of security guarantees from Russia. They were never respected. How can we trust any Russian promises?”
Putin has demanded Western powers guarantee in writing that Ukraine would not be a staging ground for NATO. Last week, Russia’s Foreign Ministry demanded Washington formally close the door on NATO membership for both Ukraine and Georgia. The Foreign Ministry also demanded that the Western alliance guarantee the non-deployment of weapons threatening Russia’s security on its western borders.
Ukraine’s foreign minister on Tuesday accused Putin of trying to return Europe to the Soviet era. “The fact Putin is searching for a new ideological justification concerning Ukraine suggests he’s on the verge of something big: an attempt to fundamentally rewrite the security order in Europe, to divide the continent into new spheres of influence,” Dmytro Kuleba said at a press conference, after his meeting with Donfried.
Western policymakers are split over why Putin has been amassing troops. They are also wrestling with their options for deterring him from making any dramatic military moves on Ukraine. Some former U.S. diplomats and officials believe Washington and its European allies should supply Ukraine with more high-tech weaponry, and sooner rather than later. They see the Kremlin’s anxiety over supplies of Western high-tech weapons as the best policy option to deter Russian adventurism.
The question U.S. and European policymakers must answer is whether they are “going to help Ukraine with the weapons and the training it needs to defend itself,” said Daniel Fried, a former American diplomat who served as assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs and was the U.S. ambassador to Poland from 1997 to 2000. The U.S. has increased its military supplies to Ukraine but Fried would like to see more.
“Ukrainians know how to use them. And I think the equipment needs to be delivered either now to deter the Russians or in the pipelines so the Russians know it can arrive very quickly,” he told VOA recently.
In Moscow, Kremlin officials say Putin planned to discuss the crisis in a call Wednesday with Chinese President Xi Jinping.
Washington: The United States is worried that draft constitutional reforms in Belarus could lead to the deployment of Russian nuclear weapons in the country, a senior State Department official told reporters Tuesday.
Joint Russia-Belarus military exercises announced Tuesday by Minsk as Russian troops arrived in the country were “beyond normal,” and could preview a permanent Russian military presence involving both conventional and nuclear forces, the official said.
Russia has begun moving troops to Ukraine’s northern neighbour Belarus for joint military exercises, in a move likely to increase fears in the west that Moscow is preparing for an invasion.
The joint military exercises, named United Resolve, are to take place as Russia also musters forces along Ukraine’s eastern border, threatening a potential invasion that could unleash the largest conflict in Europe for decades.
Social media videos from Belarus appeared to show artillery and other military vehicles arriving on flatbed carriages owned by the Russian state railway company, and Alexander Volfovich, the head of Belarus’s security council, said in a briefing that troops were already arriving before exercises scheduled for February.
Some military analysts have suggested Russiacould send its forces through Belarus in the case of a broad invasion, effectively stretching out Ukraine’s defences by taking advantage of the two countries’ nearly 700-mile border. Others believe Belarus would not play a serious role in the conflict if Russia were to launch an attack on Ukraine.
The Belarusian leader, Alexander Lukashenko, has responded to international pressure and isolation by strengthening ties with Russia, giving vocal support for Putin’s military buildup as he receives diplomatic and economic support from the Kremlin to battle western sanctions. He has also abandoned his country’s supposedly neutral stance on the Ukraine conflict and publicly endorsed Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea.
The exercises are to be held in the west of Belarus, near the borders of Nato members Poland and Lithuania, and its southern flank with Ukraine, Lukashenko said.
“Set an exact date and let us know, so we aren’t blamed for massing some troops here out of the blue as if we are preparing to go to war,” he told top military officials.
Reports from Russia have also shown more military equipment, including tanks and short-range ballistic missiles, being transported across the country toward Ukraine within the last week.
The German foreign minister, Annalena Baerbock, said before a meeting with her Russian counterpart on Tuesday that she hoped the tensions could be resolved by diplomacy but if not Moscow would pay a “high price” for aggressive acts toward Ukraine.
No concrete troop numbers or timeframe have been named for the joint Russia-Belarus exercises, which Putin announced during a summit with Lukashenko in late December. Lukashenko said on Monday that the exact dates in February were still being determined.
He said during the briefing that the exercises were needed because of the presence of Nato forces in neighbouring Poland and the Baltic states, as well as Ukraine’s deployment of troops to the border in response to the migrant crisis that he helped create last year.
“Why are we and Russia being reproached for holding manoeuvres, exercises and so forth when you’ve come from far away?” said Lukashenko in heated remarks in which he said western countries had stationed nearly 30,000 troops near his country’s borders. “There are some hot-heads calling for war. We hear these statements.”
He also echoed aggressive Kremlin rhetoric that may be used to justify a military intervention in Ukraine, claiming that Kyiv was preparing battalions of “radical nationalists”. A Ukrainian official called the remarks manipulative and “part of an information war”.
Volfovich said the exercises would involve Belarusian and Russian soldiers training to repel air and land attacks, neutralise enemy saboteurs and practise other manoeuvres. He also played down the significance of their timing, saying that there was “nothing extraordinary” in them because they were announced late last year, according to a report in the state-run Belta news agency.
There are signs, however, that Belarus has taken a more active role in its support of Russia in its ongoing conflict with Ukraine and the west.
Kyiv initially said it believed a hacking team tied to Belarusian state intelligence may have played a role in a major cyber-attack on government websites late last week, and Russian nuclear-capable bombers have recently flown over western Belarus.
Lukashenko has strengthened ties with Putin since 2020, when he launched a bloody crackdown on protests sparked by vote-rigging during presidential elections. He was driven further into international isolation after he grounded a RyanAir flight in order to arrest a critic of his government and helped manufacture a migrant crisis on EU borders, prompting a humanitarian emergency.
Belarus adopted an ostensibly neutral position in 2014 and avoided recognising Russia’s annexation of Crimea, but the dynamic has changed considerably as the country has relied more on Russian diplomatic and material support in the last two years.
… we have a small favour to ask. We’d like to thank you for putting your trust in our journalism last year – and invite you to join the million-plus people in 180 countries who have recently taken the step to support us financially, keeping us open to all, and fiercely independent.
In 2021, this support sustained investigative work into offshore wealth, spyware, the 6 January insurrection, the corporate actors behind the climate crisis, and the abuses of Big Tech.
The new year, like all new years, will hopefully herald a fresh sense of cautious optimism, and there is certainly much for us to focus on in 2022 – the US midterms, the ongoing fight for racial justice, the next round in the struggle against the pandemic and a World Cup.
With no shareholders or billionaire owner, we can set our own agenda and provide trustworthy journalism that’s free from commercial and political influence, offering a counterweight to the spread of misinformation. When it’s never mattered more, we can investigate and challenge without fear or favour.
Unlike many other media organisations, Guardian journalism is available for everyone to read, regardless of what they can afford to pay. We do this because we believe in information equality. Greater numbers of people can keep track of global events, understand their impact on people and communities, and become inspired to take meaningful action.
“A nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought.” That statement, which President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev issued in 1985, helped end the Cold War. It meant something because until then, both countries believed the other was ready and almost willing to destroy the other with its large nuclear arsenal. They backed up their words by reducing their armories and banning their most dangerous weapons.
Almost 40 years later, the risk of a nuclear conflict erupting between the United States and Russia, and increasingly between the United States and China, is dangerously high. Without concrete steps to de-escalate tensions and reduce reliance on nuclear weapons, the United States could end up in a nuclear war it says must not be fought.
Story continues below advertisement
Tensions over Ukraine or Taiwan could get out of hand quickly, with uncertain outcomes. Just this past week, Russia made veiled threats of deploying more battlefield nuclear weapons in and around Ukraine. Worse, the United States, Russia and China are all rapidly modernizing or expanding their nuclear and missile capabilities, as are Britain, India, Pakistan and North Korea.
It is understandable that the international community welcomed the Jan. 3 statement by the United States, Russia, China, France and Britain, the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council collectively known as the P-5, that adopted the historic 1985 Reagan-Gorbachev statement for the first time. But despite their stated rejection of nuclear war in reality, the United States and Russia exercise daily for such war, and both invest heavily in nuclear weaponry.
The United States continues to target high-value Russian and Chinese military targets — nuclear and otherwise — the destruction of which, U.S. leaders believe, would produce “favorable” outcomes. Russia does the same to U.S.- and European-based targets. The goal: to control the battlefield and to create an outcome that political and military leaders can, inconceivably, consider a “victory.” If that is not a nuclear war, what is?
Story continues below advertisement
When it comes to nuclear weapons, the United States should be precise about its intentions. Declaratory policy can be a powerful tool in reducing nuclear risks. It is conventional wisdom that America stopped a Soviet invasion of Western Europe by declaring that it was prepared to use nuclear weapons in response to such an attack. The same can work in reverse. Adopting a more limited role for nuclear weapons can reduce the concern that a country might cross the nuclear threshold early in a conflict. Clarity on this stance, backed by changes on operations and forces to make it credible, can reduce the risks of nuclear preemption.
The Biden administration is preparing its own Nuclear Posture Review, which will lay out President Biden’s policies. As a senator, vice president and presidential candidate, Biden indicated that he might be ready to accept a more restrictive set of nuclear policies, including adopting a clear statement that the sole mission for U.S. nuclear forces is to deter and, if necessary, respond to a nuclear attack on the United States or its allies. The Nuclear Posture Review would be just the place for issuing this overdue statement of clarity. But U.S. statements must be credible, which means also implementing changes to force structures, targeting and procurement.
Saying that Washington opposes nuclear war-fighting while pursuing more than $1.2 trillionover the next three decades in nuclear modernization — including new missiles, submarines, stealth bombers and hard-to-track cruise missiles — damages America’s credibility. Moscow’s own modernization, and signs that China is increasingly seeking some form of nuclear parity with Russia and the United States, further undermine the value of the P-5′s feel-good statement. Though that statement was a step in the right direction, the words remain hollow and even dangerous if not followed by concrete actions.
Story continues below advertisement
Being specific about when nations would use nuclear weapons is one way to ease, if not eliminate, the pressure. But more must also be done to reduce the risk of clashes that could escalate to nuclear conflict. For example, members of the P-5 and the other nuclear-weapon states should adopt and implement proven risk-management tools to deal with the new challenges in space, cyberspace, missile and air defenses, and conventional weapons that are becoming more accurate, fast-moving and stealthy.
High-level strategic stability discussions should also seek concrete moves to prove that nuclear war-fighting is not part of the plan for members of the P-5. This can include taking weapons off alert status, cutting back modernization programs, pursuing binding reductions of nuclear forces and adopting observable norms on other weapons that threaten to undermine stability.
The danger of escalation to nuclear war remains all too real. Rejecting nuclear war-fighting in all of its forms should be a minimum approach for Biden. Failure to do so would only worsen the ongoing arms race among the United States, Russia and China.
United States against Russia, gas war breaks out: Washington to the aid of the EU
The moves of Russia
“Some Russian officials have suggested that it could pursue Moscow’s security interests in different ways”: “There have been hints, never explicit, that nuclear weapons could be moved,” says the NYT, adding that to indicate “this approach “would have been Putin himself, threatening an unexpected response if the West had crossed the” red line “, such as that of placing NATO on its doorstep. In fact, last November Putin suggested that Russia could deploy hypersonic submarine missiles at a distance that could hit Washington. The tsar has repeatedly reiterated that the prospect of a Western military expansion into Ukraine poses an unacceptable risk because it could be used to launch nuclear strikes against Moscow with only a few minutes of warning. Russia, the head of the Kremlin had warned, could have done the same.
The summit with the US / How much the Russia-Ukraine tensions cost the EU
Beyond the threats, however, the tension on the Ukrainian border is skyrocketing. In an interview with CNN, Putin’s spokesman, Dmitri Peskov, essentially branded as nothing, or almost nothing, the recent talks with Western countries that fear a Russian invasion at the gates of the EU, to which – according to the New York Times – the Biden administration would be ready to respond by supporting any Ukrainian uprising. Russia and the West remain on «totally divergent positions. And this is not good, it is worrying and dangerous », Peskov declared, demanding« extremely specific answers for our extremely specific proposals ». As if that weren’t enough, Ukraine said it had “evidence” of Russia’s involvement in a serious cyber attack that targeted several government sites in the country in recent days. “To date, all the evidence indicates that Russia is behind the cyber attack,” Kiev’s Department of Digital Transformation said in a statement. “Moscow is continuing to wage a hybrid war,” he added.
Diplomacy at work / The US-Russia dialogue and the role of Italy
While Peskov – again speaking to CNN – rejected the accusations: “The Ukrainians blame Russia for everything, including bad weather”. However, some analysts fear that the cyber attack could be the prelude to a military attack. Washington also accused Russia of sending explosives-trained saboteurs to stage an incident that could be used as a pretext for invading Ukraine. The United States will decide at the beginning of the week on the tug-of-war with Russia, while intense diplomatic contacts continue with European allies with the aim of safeguarding the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine. Today, Secretary of State Blinken talked about it with Frenchman Le Drian.
By Harlan Ullman, Opinion ContributorJanuary 17, 2022 – 08:00 AM EST
The views expressed by contributors are their own and not the view of The Hill
In 2014, the Obama administration, without ample prior consultations and discussions, announced its “strategic pivot” to Asia. China was angered, and many friends and allies were alarmed by the seemingly sudden shift in American policy. China would become “the pacing threat” for the Obama administration’s national security planning. The next two administrations would follow suit.
“Pacing” like “prevailing” is a marvelously loose word that implies more than it means. But does “pacing” demand dramatic action? Or is its ambiguity a clever disguise to hide intent? “Prevailing” is equally elusive. Did the U.S. prevail in Afghanistan by killing Osama bin Laden despite the fraught withdrawal a decade later?
Given Russia’s military buildup around Ukraine’s borders and Western intelligence forecasts that an invasion may be imminent in late January, surely Moscow is the more “clear and present danger.” China only talks about regaining Taiwan by force if necessary. Since China has been identified as the “pacing threat” for some time, is a review long overdue to assess whether it or Russia best fills that description?
Three questions form the basis for an evaluation. First, what are the specific threats posed by China and Russia to the U.S. and its allies and how do China and Russia match up against the other in that regard? Second, if China and Russia are indeed coequal dangers, is the U.S. capable of dealing with both concurrently in all conditions? Third, what should be the appropriate U.S. national security and defense strategies and priorities towards both?
Clearly, China’s economic growth and increased international assertiveness are areas of major concern. By comparison, Russia, with a tenth the population and a fraction of China’s GDP, is economically relevant only in the vital energy sphere. But what is often overlooked is that Russia has at least as formidable if not a stronger military than China.
Russia is intent on dividing and disrupting NATO, our key multilateral security alliance. China is not. While China is exerting greater political and economic influence through the Belt and Road and other diplo-economic initiatives, unlike Russia, it is less reliant on the military tool even though it is increasing its global presence.
What is the best course of action for the U.S.? In my analysis, Russia is the more immediate political-military threat and China the long-term geo-economic challenge. While China’s technological military advancements have been impressive, Russia’s have been at least as noteworthy, particularly in space and modernizing its nuclear and conventional forces. Despite the specter of a Chinese invasion of Taiwan, that threat has been exaggerated. China lacks the capacity to mount a successful amphibious assault on Taiwan and will for the foreseeable future.
About regarding China and Russia as co-equal threats, for over a decade and a half during the Cold War, the U.S. relied on the so-called “two-and-a-half war doctrine. It posited fighting two major wars (China and Russia) simultaneously and a half war elsewhere. Unable to win the half war in Vietnam, the concept of a two-war strategy remains unaffordable, unobtainable and unwinable.
What should the U.S. do? First, do not name enemies in advance. Second, China poses the larger geoeconomics challenge; Russia the political-military one. Third, the appropriate defense strategy is a “Porcupine Defense” in Europe, modified in the Pacific to contain China’s military to the first island chain. Both are defined in my recently-released book, “The Fifth Horseman and the New MAD,” and rely on disrupting an enemy’s strategy and any initial military thrusts as the best means to deter and fight.
To many, this is radical thinking. Challenging the proposition of China as the pacing threat contradicts conventional political wisdom in Washington. But Europe is a much larger collective trading partner and the cornerstone for our defense through NATO. Russia will remain the more imminent danger after the Ukraine crisis passes. Strategy must reflect that reality.
Harlan Ullman, Ph.D, is senior adviser at Washington, D.C.’s Atlantic Council and the primary author of “shock and awe.” His latest book is, “The Fifth Horseman and the New MAD: How Massive Attacks of Disruption Became the Looming Existential Danger to a Divided Nation and that World at Large.”
If the West fails to meet its security demands, Moscow could take measures like placing nuclear missiles close to the U.S. coastline, Russian officials have hinted.
Jan. 16, 2022
VIENNA — No one expected much progress from this past week’s diplomatic marathon to defuse the security crisis Russia has ignited in Eastern Europe by surrounding Ukraine on three sides with 100,000 troops and then, by the White House’s accounting, sending in saboteurs to create a pretext for invasion.
But as the Biden administration and NATO conduct tabletop simulations about how the next few months could unfold, they are increasingly wary of another set of options for President Vladimir V. Putin, steps that are more far-reaching than simply rolling his troops and armor over Ukraine’s border.
Mr. Putin wants to extend Russia’s sphere of influence to Eastern Europe and secure written commitments that NATO will never again enlarge. If he is frustrated in reaching that goal, some of his aides suggested on the sidelines of the negotiations last week, then he would pursue Russia’s security interests with results that would be felt acutely in Europe and the United States.
There were hints, never quite spelled out, that nuclear weapons could be shifted to places — perhaps not far from the United States coastline — that would reduce warning times after a launch to as little as five minutes, potentially igniting a confrontation with echoes of the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis.
“A hypothetical Russian invasion of Ukraine would not undermine the security of the United States,” said Dmitry Suslov, an analyst in Moscow who gave a closed-door presentation on the standoff to Russian lawmakers last month. “The overall logic of Russian actions is that it is the U.S. and NATO that must pay a high price.”
And as Ukrainians were reminded anew on Friday, as the websites of the country’s ministries were defaced in a somewhat amateurish attack, Russia’s army of hackers can wreak havoc in Ukraine, but also in power grids from Munich to Michigan.
It could all be bluster, part of a Kremlin campaign of intimidation, and a way of reminding President Biden that while he wants to focus American attention on competing and dealing with China, Mr. Putin is still capable of causing enormous disruption.President Vladimir Putin of Russia answering a question during his annual news conference in Moscow on Dec. 23.Yuri Kochetkov/EPA, via Shutterstock
The Russian leader telegraphed that approach himself by warning repeatedly in the past year that if the West crossed the ever-shifting “red line” that, in Mr. Putin’s mind, threatens Russia’s security, he would order an unexpected response.
“Russia’s response will be asymmetrical, fast and tough,” Mr. Putin said last April, referring to the kinds of unconventional military action that Russia could take if adversaries threatened “our fundamental security interests.”
It has reinforced those demands, which the U.S. calls “non-starters,” with a troop buildup near Ukraine and repeated warnings it was prepared to use unspecified “military-technical means” to defend what it considers its legitimate security interests.
In response, the Biden administration has issued warnings of financial and technological sanctions if the Kremlin should follow through with its threats, particularly in regard to Ukraine. American officials say that for all the talk about moving nuclear weapons or using asymmetrical attacks, so far the U.S. has seen little evidence.
At a White House briefing on Thursday, Jake Sullivan, Mr. Biden’s national security adviser, declined to be drawn into the question of what kind of Russian action would trigger a U.S. response — whether, for example, the U.S. would respond to a cyberattack the way it would an incursion into Ukrainian territory.
“The United States and our allies are prepared for any contingency, any eventuality,’’ he said. “We’re prepared to keep moving forward down the diplomatic path in good faith, and we’re prepared to respond to fresh acts. And beyond that, all we can do is get ready. And we are ready.”
Of course, the most obvious scenario given the scale of troop movements on the ground is a Russian invasion of Ukraine — maybe not to take over the entire country but to send troops into the breakaway regions around the cities of Donetsk and Luhansk, or to roll all the way to the Dnieper River. At the Pentagon, “five or six different options” for the extent of a Russian invasion are being examined, one senior official reported.Ukrainian soldiers at the line of separation from pro-Russian rebels in the Donetsk region of Ukraine last month.Andriy Dubchak/Associated Press
Yevgeny Buzhinsky, a retired lieutenant general and a regular Russian television commentator, predicted a looming “limited” war provoked by Ukraine that Russia would win in short order through devastating airstrikes.
“There will be no columns of tanks,” General Buzhinsky said in a phone interview. “They will just destroy all the Ukrainian infrastructure from the air, just like you do it.”
In Geneva, Russian diplomats insisted there were no plans to invade Ukraine. But there were hints of other steps. In one little-noticed remark, a senior Russian diplomat said Moscow was prepared to place unspecified weapons systems in unspecified places. That merged with American intelligence assessments that Russia could be considering new nuclear deployments, perhaps tactical nuclear weapons or a powerful emerging arsenal of hypersonic missiles.
In November, Mr. Putin himself suggested Russia could deploy submarine-based hypersonic missiles within close striking distance of Washington. He has said repeatedly that the prospect of Western military expansion in Ukraine poses an unacceptable risk because it could be used to launch a nuclear strike against Moscow with just a few minutes’ warning. Russia, he made clear, could do the same.
“From the beginning of the year we will have in our arsenal a new sea-based missile, a hypersonic one,” Mr. Putin said, referring to a weapon that travels at more than five times the speed of sound and could likely evade existing missile defenses.
In an apparent reference to the American capital, he added: “The flight time to reach those who give the orders will also be five minutes.”
Mr. Putin said he would deploy such missiles only in response to Western moves, and President Biden told Mr. Putin in their last conversation that the United States has no plans to place offensive strike systems in Ukraine.President Biden meeting with Mr. Putin in Geneva last June.Doug Mills/The New York Times
Russian officials hinted again in recent days about new missile deployments, and American officials repeated that they have seen no moves in that direction. But any effort to place weapons close to American cities would create conditions similar to the 1962 crisis that was the closest the world ever came to a nuclear exchange.
Asked about the nature of what Mr. Putin has termed a possible “military-technical” response, Sergei A. Ryabkov, a deputy foreign minister, said in Geneva on Monday: “Right now there is no reason to talk about what systems will be deployed, in what quantity, and where exactly.”
Ominous warnings. Russia called the strike a destabilizing act that violated the cease-fire agreement, raising fears of a new intervention in Ukraine that could draw the United States and Europe into a new phase of the conflict.
The Kremlin’s position. President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, who has increasingly portrayed NATO’s eastward expansion as an existential threat to his country, said that Moscow’s military buildup was a response to Ukraine’s deepening partnership with the alliance.
And when a Russian reporter asked Mr. Ryabkov in an interview broadcast on Thursday whether Russia was considering deploying military infrastructure in Venezuela or Cuba, he responded: “I don’t want to confirm anything or rule anything out.”
Moving missiles, however, is obvious to the world. And that is why, if the conflict escalates further, American officials believe that Mr. Putin could be drawn to cyberattacks — easy to deny, superbly tailored for disruption and amenable to being ramped up or down, depending on the political temperature.
Mr. Putin doesn’t need to do much to insert computer code, or malware, into American infrastructure; the Department of Homeland Security has long warned that the Russians have already placed malware inside many American power grids.
The Biden administration has sought to shore up U.S. systems and root out malware. The nation’s biggest utilities run an elaborate war game every two years, simulating such an attack.Anti-ship missile systems moving from positions near the Trefoil base, Russia’s most northern military outpost, in May.Emile Ducke for The New York Times
But much of corporate America remains far less protected.
The fear is that if sanctions were imposed on Moscow, Mr. Putin’s response could be to accelerate the kind of Russian based ransomware attacks that hit Colonial Pipeline, a major beef producer, and cities and towns across the country last year.
The F.S.B., Russia’s powerful security service, on Friday announced the arrest of hackers tied to the REvil ransomware group — a gang connected to some of the most damaging attacks against American targets, including Colonial Pipeline. The move was welcomed by the White House, but it was also a signal that Moscow could flip its cyberwarriors on or off at will.
“There could be all sorts of possible responses,” Mr. Putin said when asked last month about the “military-technical” response he warned about.
“The Russian leadership is rather inventive,” said Andrey Kortunov, director general of the Russian International Affairs Council, a research organization close to the Russian government. “It’s not necessarily only about Ukraine.”
Analysts in Moscow believe that beyond a more threatening Russian military posture, the United States would be particularly sensitive to closer military cooperation between Russia and China. Mr. Putin will travel to Beijing on Feb. 4 to attend the opening ceremonies of the Winter Olympics and hold a summit meeting with the Chinese leader, Xi Jinping, Russia said on Friday.A portrait of Mr. Putin at a market in Moscow last month.Kirill Kudryavtsev/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
The Kremlin has noted that Mr. Biden sees China, not Russia, as America’s most complex, long-term challenger — an economic, military and technological competitor that plays in a different league from Russia. Yet forcing the United States to increase its investment in a confrontation with Russia, analysts say, would undermine Mr. Biden’s greater strategic goal.
“The United States, objectively, does not want to increase its military presence in Europe,” said Mr. Suslov, the analyst. “This would be done at the cost of containing China.”
Anton Troianovski reported from Vienna, and David E. Sanger from Washington.
VLADIMIR Putin wants to scare the US with his “bully boy” threats to set up military bases in Cuba but he won’t put nuclear weapons on America’s doorstep, an expert says.
Hawkish Russian foreign minister Sergei Ryabkov threatened to deploy forces in Latin America if security talks with the West fail to satisfy Moscow’s demands.
Speaking about potential military deployment, the politician told state media outlet RTVI: “It depends on the steps of our American counterparts.”
The threat came after Russia failed to persuade the West to block Ukraine from joining Nato and roll back decades of expansion in Europe.
Moscow branded the outcome of East-West talks as “disappointing” as tensions between the US and Russia over the Ukrainian crisis continue to simmer.
Taras Kuzio, a research fellow at the Henry Jackson Society and a Ukrainian political expert, told The Sun: “Threatening to deploy military infrastructure in Cuba is just Putin’s childish attempt to poke the Americans in the eye.
“It’s Moscow’s way of being very immature and they are stomping their feet because they didn’t get what they wanted. They made ultimatums and all it did was lead to the uniting of the West.
“Putin is just angry that the talks didn’t get anywhere. It’s his way of saying ‘I’ll show you’.
“He carries a lot of anger inside him about how he thinks the West treated Russia after the collapse of the USSR in the 1990s and that anger keeps lashing out.”
Ryabkov said he could “neither confirm nor exclude” the possibility of Russia sending military assets to Latin America if the US doesn’t reduce its “activity” on Moscow’s doorstep.
Kuzio doesn’t think the “bully-boy bluffing” is a “big deal” but warned the situation could escalate if Moscow puts nukes in America’s backyard.
He said: “I mean if we go back to 1962 where Russia put nuclear weapons in Cuba then that’s a big deal but I don’t think Moscow will be that stupid.”
The 1962 crisis is the closest the world has ever come to a nuclear war.
The expert suspects that missile systems and military bases could be put on the Caribbean island if Russia carries out its threat.
He added: “I don’t think it will be a major operation because it would be costly. Cuba is too far away from Russia.
“They may supply the Cubans with some high-tech Russian equipment. And if those missiles could strike US territory, it would lead to a lot of angry American politicians.”
NATO rejected Russian demands for guarantees that Ukraine will never join the alliance.
Diplomats also rebuffed calls to withdraw forces from Eastern European nations that joined the alliance after the Cold War.
US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman said: “Together the United States and our NATO allies made clear we will not slam the door shut on NATO’s open-door policy.”
She branded Moscow’s demands a “non-starter”.
Texas Senator Ted Cruz claimed that the Biden administration is “enabling the aggression of Putin”.
Michael Carpenter, the US Ambassador to the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, said: “We’re facing a crisis in European security.”
And, Polish Foreign Minister Zbigniew Rau warned: “It seems that the risk of war in the OSCE area is now greater than ever before in the last 30 years.
“For several weeks we have been faced with the prospect of a major military escalation in Eastern Europe.”
And Ben Wallace, the UK Defence Secretary, warned that the West “must prepare for the worst”.
He vowed that Britain would “stand up to bullies” as fears of a Russian invasion continue to mount.
No invasion by Moscow appears to be imminent as it stands despite the wargames.
Russia amassed around 100,000 troops at the Ukrainian border, put its satellite destroying S-550 missile into service, and launched the Angara A-5 – its largest rocket since the fall of the Soviet Union.
Geopolitical expert Brandon J Weichert previously told The Sun: “Putin wins points at home if he beats his chest at the West.
“But I do think if we’re not careful, Putin will lash out and he will strike.
“Washington is completely misreading this when diplomats and officials say it’s a bluff.”
Weichert also claimed that Moscow is “plotting” to launch a Pearl Harbor-style attack against the US.
He warned that Washington is behind both Moscow and Beijing in the so-called space race as both nations have weaponized the galaxies.
In his book, Winning Space: How America Remains a Superpower, Weichert says that Russian co-orbital satellites, known as space stalkers, have been tailgating US satellites for years.
He predicts that the stalkers will eventually hit the satellites, sending them crashing into the ground.
He claimed officials in Moscow are plotting to launch such an attack at the time of its choosing.